A small group of us gathered that clear autumn night. Over wine and laughter, we talked writing process and books to read—and we wrote, of course. We’re happy to announced Joe Gut as the October 2011 Mini Sledgehammer (Blackbird Wine edition) champion!
Action: Running a tab
Setting: Under a full moon
Phrase: “I don’t want to be rude, but…”
By Joe Gut
He tilted his head back to look all the way up the beefy, then slender, skyscraper directly in front of him. The road ended here, dead ended at the mouth of this shimmering totem to commerce. Three hundred twenty seven miles, twenty six small towns, two big ones, one stop for gas and coconut-covered chocolate puffs, and he was here. Why here, though?
Did roads just stop like this? Sure, some did, but important roads like the one he had spent the morning through early evening on, they didn’t. It had taken him this far, why no further?
The crisp hum of circus-peanut orange lamps blanketed the air above him. A breeze kissed his adams apple as his neck stretched, exposed.
He wanted to look higher and his gaze was about to break the atmosphere and achieve escape velocity when the full moon blocked his path.
This road, this strange unpredictable road had died and left him at the foot of the moon.
As he reeled in his ambitious view, he noticed a well-dressed man approaching from the right. He was blurry, and then became whole, with a sharp outline and a purposeful walk. He wore a gray fedora, a pinstripe suit, and carried a leather case.
“Excuse me,” he asked the well-dressed man, “how are you?”
The man barely altered his stride as he passed, but then stopped abruptly ten feet later, with the sandy scrape of his wingtips, like an officer dramatically halting his march.
“Excuse me,” he tried again. The man turned and came back.
“How are you? And why did my road just stop? I don’t mean to be rude, but I had recently become good friends with this road. And then this…” The man gestured at the skyscraper.
“Young man, are you feeling alright? Asked the well-dressed man, leaning in and squinting, attempting to answer his own question.
“I am not alright, sir. I just lost a dear friend today and I am heartbroken.”
“You don’t look well.”
“I’ve consulted my planner and everything else is in order. So why…” he trailed off as his attention shifted to the sheaf of papers now in his hands.
“Young man, you’re bleeding. Can I call the hospital or the police for you? You mustn’t just stand out here in this condition.”
As the man in the suit finished his question a faint siren filled the air, followed by others getting louder by the second.
The glow of the moon bathed them in a waxen haze, but moments later, red, white, blue and bright white overpowered it and crashed into their conversation. The screeching of tires was next. Four, five, six, then seven patrol cars from different towns, even different states, surrounded them, washed upon them like a late, rushing tide.
Doors opened, shouting, bright lights. The well-dressed man shot his hands in the air and quickly kneeled at their instruction.
The other man turned and smiled, clutching his schedule and the photos tightly in his grasp.
“Put your hands above your head and slowly get down on your knees, Mr. Graves. You’re under arrest for the murders of Bridget Banks, Shelley Barr, Margaret Folke and Julie Parks.”
He had run and run, and run up quite a tab along the way. It was time to pay up.
© 2011 Joe Gut
Joe Gut is an artist and writer who just moved to Portland after deciding that Cleveland, Ohio, wasn’t the only cool place on earth to live. He manages online marketing programs for his day job, but sneaks in writing (mostly poetry) and sketching whenever he can. He has published several poems and looks forward to dedicating more time to his craft over the coming months.
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